But You Look So Healthy
My name is Joanna and I am a 40-something-year-old in the midst of a reinvention.
You see, my life has had many ups and downs and twists and turns and now I find myself at a crossroads where my numerous health problems, the state of the world, my faith and my career have all intersected.
Growing up in the late-1970s and early-1980s, my formative years were shaped by my older-than-“normal” parents (my mom had me when she a few months away from turning 44), a stressful school experience (that included almost dying due to a bad gall bladder that needed to be removed) and a less-than-stellar nutritional diet (unfortunately, my parents and most of society didn’t know much better at the time). I found theater, tennis and softball as I grew into my teens and remained physically active through those and different jobs, eventually leading to an overall feeling that something was wrong with me in 2013.
In between, I had two kids who are now both adults. As a single mom, I struggled raising them with community college and work early on. After I received my associate’s degree, I continued working while raising them and staying active in theater, becoming a personal trainer and working jobs that often required much physical labor (including landscaping and 20-plus years in manufacturing).
I met my now-husband, Matt, in 2007 and we became active in softball, volunteering for a children’s community theater company, UpStage Players, and going on crazy adventures as a couple and often with my kids. We did nature-y things and mini-road trips at his request and auditioned for “Cleveland Idol” and even traveled to Pittsburgh to be movie extras in one of the Batman movies (neither of us got the part) at my urging, amongst other things. I did get selected as an extra in the "Alex Cross" movie, though!
We eventually became heavily involved in the Northeast Ohio arts and crafts scene and spent most of our free time in a studio that we opened, while participating in many arts and craft shows. Matt painted items and paintings and I made hand-crafted makeup products and soaps. We even opened a brick and mortar store that specialized in locally handmade items and an art gallery. In fact, I came up with a point-of-sale system using an iPod touch and some early Apple app software before most people ever conceived of it. Unfortunately, some disagreements with a business partner led us to part ways from that endeavor. Sadly, Matt and I lost interest in our art and craft ventures and while we each do minor projects here and there, our passion was seriously derailed by the falling out we had with our business partner.
As 2013 came, I began to notice that I wasn’t feeling as good as I should. Mind you, I constantly wondered how others could go day-to-day and not feel tired, worn out or exhausted, because that is how I felt pretty much my entire life. I still played softball, tennis, golf and got out and did activities with my family. I worked, worked out and stayed pretty active, but something just wasn’t right.
I excelled in years past as a personal trainer, landscaper and in various supply chain positions in manufacturing, so what was going on?
Was it smoking (I eventually quit)? What I was eating? Something more?
My fatigue got worse and my ability to function and be on the go each day became harder and harder. I began to lose my hair, my neck and muscles ached more than they should. My lower back flared constantly. I had unusual mood swings, a compulsion to nap and a general concern that something was going on inside me.
I made appointments with doctor after doctor…general practitioners and specialists...had blood tests, allergy tests, scopes, x-rays, MRIs, you name it. One doctor said it was all in my head and I should see a psychiatrist. Another doctor years later said, “You probably have fibromyalgia but that’s not my specialty so I can’t do anything about it.” Yet another doctor treated some of my pain with cortisol and steroid shots that barely worked and wore off in a couple of hours.
In the time between 2013 and today, I’ve seen over 15 doctors, in addition to trying cryotherapy, salt cave therapy, foot detoxification, massage, dry needling, acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractic therapy, Pilates, barre, yoga, reiki, meditation…you name it…some have helped and some did nothing.
To alleviate symptoms and to try to just function, I’ve also taken CBD, kratom, decongestants, allergy pills, countless supplements, many different prescriptions for pain and inflammation, and have eliminated dozens and dozens of foods and drinks I felt were triggers to my various ailments. We purchased several hand-held and electric massagers, essential oil diffusers and myofascial muscle rollers. Relief was often short-lived and not enough.
Finally, what began to turn around my seemingly unending plight of physical pain, soreness, discomfort and exhaustion began with a visit to a sports medicine doctor in my hometown at the suggestion of my church pastor. This doctor had done wonders for my pastor and despite seeing over a dozen doctors before him, I hadn’t been to a sports medicine practitioner before.
At the time (summer of 2019), my biggest ailment was neck and shoulder pain and fatigue. I had already discovered my giant list of food intolerances so had eliminated many triggers from my diet, but still had this increasingly more prevalent neck and shoulder issue.
In the meantime, my chiropractor had a major role in helping me alleviate some of my maladies, though they were often “temporary.” I constantly had disks out in my neck and my SI joints often popped out. I had recurring neck and back alignment problems as well. It was my chiropractor who truly and finally began to help me feel better. Beyond his treatment, it was him who really made me realize that what could be a large contributor to my problems might be what I was eating and drinking.
I decided I needed to make a radical change, though I really had no idea what foods were ultimately “killing” me. As a result, I began the Whole 30 diet and lifestyle program for 30 days to try to “reset” my body. I started to feel better and was greatly encouraged by the results, though they weren’t a cure-all.
I eventually eliminated all wheat products and anything containing gluten. I felt gluten was a HUGE trigger of mine. As it turns out, testing revealed that I have one of the Celiac genes. However, other foods seemed to trigger inflammation, pain, plugged ears, headaches, exhaustion and other issues, so I’ve constantly had to eliminate, reintroduce, eliminate, keep, etc., different foods – to this day.
Getting back to the sports medicine doctor, it was through him that I was finally able to get an MRI on my neck and shoulder, something I had advocated for with my primary doctor, but he didn’t think it was necessary. Wow – he was wrong!
The MRI revealed that I had arthritis and bursitis in my shoulder, confirmed that the curvature of my neck was too straight and that I had several disks that were pushing on the nerves in my neck. Even to the untrained eye my neck looked like a mess.
Medication, physical therapy, eliminating weightlifting above my shoulders and other massage and muscle manipulation techniques have helped me manage the neck and should issues. But, more importantly, the sports medicine doctor suggested I see another specialist, one who was an expert in treating fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and other inflammatory conditions, because he felt that I could be suffering from fibromyalgia or a similar ailment. This was now the second doctor who mentioned fibro, but the first who took all of my problems seriously and then offered treatment suggestions and solutions. He was also the one who referred me to Dr. Bowersox, who has been the subject of many of my videos and has helped change my life for the better.
My luck with doctors had finally turned around, but after a year of out-of-pocket medical expenses (after the insurance covered its share) that reached over $10,000, I was reluctant to go to yet another doc.
Finally, as 2020 came and the COVID-19 pandemic hit, my husband began to work from home, as did I. After seeing firsthand the suffering I constantly went through (much of which I minimized and he didn’t see while we were both at work) he encouraged me to make an appointment with Dr. Bowersox while I was in the midst of a pretty bad, multi-day spell of fatigue and pain.
It turned out that some foods and drinks that I hadn’t previously identified as triggers (coffee, citric acid and others) seemed to now be off limits. I couldn’t go a day without some kind of pain, fatigue or unrelenting need to pass out for hours on end. My husband even had to make some calls for me to try to get appointments scheduled.
A few months after seeing Dr. Bowersox for the first time, I decided to take on a new mission…a mission to feel my best and try to help others who are going through the same or similar suffering. My faith and the state of humanity has pulled at my heartstrings and I feel called to do something.
As a former personal trainer with 20+ years working in manufacturing, this new mission has morphed into me becoming a health and nutrition coach, while working on my certification for group fitness instruction and a bachelor's degree in social work.
Working on these things has been a challenge while dealing with my health issues, but I'm determined "not merely to survive, but to thrive." I want to help others who are suffering in a healthcare system that is failing them and provide alternative ways to manage their problems, while nurturing their spirit and provide educational resources so they can be informed.
Certified Health and Nutrition Life Coach
Happiness Life Coach
Certified Pilates on the Ball Instructor
Kundalini Reiki Practitioner
Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisor